Talk about industrial and materials stocks being as cold as a slab of frozen beef.
The industrial and materials sectors of the S&P 500 have tanked 6.49% and 7.47%, respectively, since Aug. 16, according to research out of Sundial Capital Research. That makes each sector the worst performers from within the S&P 500 over this time span. The S&P 500 is roughly flat going back to Aug. 16.
Sundial says the selling pressure is “getting extreme,” and the data bears that out.
The percentage of industrial stocks holding above their 50-day moving average has plunged below 20%, a level not seen since the height of COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Fewer than 60% of industrial stocks closed above their 200-day moving average earlier this week, indicating a severe loss in confidence in the sector among investors.
“As we’ve referenced in the past, healthy markets (and sectors) typically hold above that threshold. It might quickly drop below 60% during uptrends, but it’s usually a spike pattern that quickly recovers. When it doesn’t, beware,” the team at Sundial explains of the dip below the 200-day moving average.
There are likely several reasons for the loss in confidence in the industrial patch.
For starters, economic growth globally has slowed down since the early part of the rebound from the pandemic this year. Industrial stocks tend to perform better at the start of an economic upswing as companies invest in the capital equipment they probably held off ordering when times were weak.
Meanwhile, industrials are continuing to battle a host of margin pressures ranging from labor shortages to raw material price inflation. The latest evidence on the financial impact of those dual struggles came via transport giant FedEx this week.
FedEx said its quarterly results were drilled by $450 million due to labor shortages alone, notably at its ground segment. The company estimated a shocking 600,000 packages across the FedEx network are being rerouted because of the inability to find labor.
“The impact of constrained labor markets remains the biggest issue facing our business as with many other companies around the world and was the key driver of our lower than expected results in the first quarter,” FedEx COO Raj Subramaniam told analysts on an earnings call.
Sundial goes on to add that the selling in industrials is approaching “panic” levels. This may prove to be a longer-term buying opportunity into the space, but Sundial cautions the choppiness is unlikely done in the near-term.
“This sector is nearing a critical inflection point, or maybe it’s already there. Investors have puked about as much as they ever do during healthy market environments, at least when measured by internal breadth and momentum. Suppose we’re in a similar environment to the past decade. In that case, we should see a relief rally in the coming weeks that alleviates the oversold conditions and allows longer-term indicators like the McClellan Summation Index to remain in (mostly) positive territory. A test of the low would typically be a higher probability for investors. Maybe it’s too cute to expect markets to follow a precise playbook like that. Still, the overall suggestion is that buying conditions like this in Industrials might work longer-term as long as one is willing to suffer potentially high uncertainty in the weeks ahead,” the researchers say.